Yellowbirddd - Highway Birches
Record Label: Self Released
Release Date: October 30, 2012
There’s something incredibly special about sad boys with acoustic guitars. Despite the overwhelming simplicity of the genre, countless bands/singers have perfected the art and can play the melody of your heart with a couple of basic chords and slightly out of tune vocals. Whether it be the music of Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith or Neutral Milk Hotel, this world of sad songs is one of the best and what’s one of the greatest things about it? Anyone can play guitar. It doesn’t matter what sort of label you’re on or how much money you can waste on production, if you’ve got lyrics and a broken heart, you can get it right. That’s where Yellowbirddd come in. Yellowbirddd, a.k.a Brooklyn’s Liam McCormack has released his third album, Highway Birches, ten tracks of stripped back, acoustic guitar led indie-folk songs, and my lord, it certainly plays the melody of at least a few hearts.
It’s been exactly twelve months since Yellowbirddd’s sophomore release, Missing and it appears in that period of time Mr McCormack has gotten a lot sadder. Whilst Missing was certainly an overall enjoyable record, it felt like there was something, eh, missing (hark, how hilarious I am). Whilst parts of the release suggested that Yellowbirddd had a lot of potential within the indie-folk world, his attempts at indie-popdom fell a bit a flat. This time around though, McCormack has focused on his strengths and trimmed back the fat of the forced pop choruses and replaced them with sparse, heartfelt melodies. Highway Birches is filled with songs that are begging to be your new favourite ‘that’s how I feel!’ song.
The record is eased in with “Intro”s piano and ambient speaking before “Waiting” kicks off with its instantly confessional, personal lyrics. McCormack’s voice is beautifully soft and manages to have a vulnerability to it whilst still being technically spot on. Throughout the release his vocal performance is perfect. Whether it be on the Fevers & Mirrors-esque “Backyard” or the desperately sad “Air Balloon”, his voice adapts to the lyrics and perfectly compliments the emotions expressed through his words. The lyrics are superb and are genuinely beautiful. Closer “Eternal Vacations” is painfully emotional. Taking lines out of context won’t give them nearly enough highlighting as they deserve but lines such as “when you stretched me out in the dark on your death bed / and your hair was longer than the coast back then” and “i'm sorry if i can't help but love you”, don’t sound nearly as special here as they do when uttered through McCormack’s broken, quivering vocals and when they're backed by sparse acoustic guitar. On track they are incredibly powerful and have a definite resonance inside the listener's brain.
Third track “Highway Birches”, is a little more upbeat than its peers on the album. So, basically it’s only about a nine on the ‘Conor Oberst scale of crying on record’. It’s a little shorter than the average of the release but it has a strange catchiness. “Backyard” sends the release off the aforementioned scale, especially when the steel guitars come out. It’s a highlight on a record of highlights and is just a beautifully heartbreaking song.
Largely, Yellowbirddd has created a perfect indie-folk album. He has poured his heart and soul into the release and it’s all the better for it. I can’t quite stress enough how heartbreaking and excellently executed this release is. Highway Birches is the sort of album artists can go a whole career trying to write, but never quite manage it, yet in less than three years, McCormack has already found perfection. Can’t wait to hear more from Yellowbirddd.